Titanium is a metallic element (atomic number 22) that is commonly used either alone or as part of an alloy in surgical pins, surgical plates and other reconstructive medical equipment. Although it is more expensive than other metals, it does have characteristics that make it an excellent choice for surgical reconstruction:
- It is very resistant to corrosion. Most of the metals that are more resistant to corrosion, like gold and platinum, are far more expensive.
- It has the highest known strength to weight ratio, meaning very little titanium can support a very large load. The pure metal is as strong as steel, but weighs 45% less. Alloying titanium with other metals keeps its light weight, but substantially increases its strength.
- It can be worked fairly easily, which means it can be formed into a number of different shapes.
- It is not magnetic (meaning that it will not interfere with some medical equipment, such as MRIs), and is a poor conductor of electricity and heat.
- It is not toxic and will be easily tolerated by the body.
- It actually allows bone to bond with it, meaning it can be left in place for decades and will actually form a stronger bond with time. The only down side is that the bone will often become weaker over time as it has to bear less load than any implant will.
In Cane and Able, the team removes a titanium pin from the patient that has migrated from the repair of a broken bone.